I admit that this does not have a lot to do with defending the faith, but it does have a lot to do with defending the church: the body of Christ. I am often confronted with many arguments for the idea that women should be in pastoral leadership. I hear that many women were leaders in the Bible from Deborah, to Anna, to Lydia, and I think we should look at each of these. It seems that the first thing we have to look at is what do we mean by leadership? I think the question points to eldership (overseer). In other words, can a woman be an elder in the church? A pastor is an elder by office, and therefore, the question is ultimately, can a woman be a pastor (overseer) in the church? This is the question that this article seeks to answer.
It seems that this is a good place for us to see what the scriptures say about women in leadership and then discuss them in turn. Following this examination of scriptures, I will list several arguments concerning the biblical stance, some in regard to the biblical female characters already mentioned.
1 Peter 3:1-7. “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Peter starts this new idea writing to a very specific group of people: Wives. In the same fashion as the prior text, Peter explains that in the family unit, there must be an authoritative figure. The responsibilities must fall on one head. The reason for this, Peter explains, is because if any of your husbands do not believe in the gospel, they may see your conduct and when we see conduct, we act accordingly.
Peter is banking on the power of influence. He is talking about a voluntary submission. He is saying that you will have more influential power by being a certain way rather than the opposite way. First I think we should understand what the goal is here. Peter says, “Even if some do not obey the Word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (v. 1). What he is saying is that the goal is that they come to know Christ! Now what tools do you use in order to do your part in making this environment as malleable as possible for salvation?
Peter talks about conduct. He says that women should “…be subject to your own husbands… because they may be won over by your conduct.” The way you handle situations matters more greatly than you think, which goes for anyone.We will discuss this in greater detail further below.
Peter is saying that what makes you beautiful is not the way your hair is braided… you can lose your hair. Then what is it that makes you beautiful? He is saying that the ornaments and jewelry you put on yourself is not what makes beauty, those things can be stolen or lost. Where then is your beauty? How about skimpy clothes? It shows the sleek silhouette of your body, but what happens when that isn’t as sleek as it used to be? Where then is your beauty? Peter reasons that a woman’s beauty must come from something else.
I think it is most natural for women to value beauty. Beauty is what first attracts a man. I have seen psychological studies on how fast a man can know if he is attracted to a woman. Several men were shown pictures of random women’s faces and it was discovered that men could detect attraction or not in less than a few seconds. With women looking at pictures of men’s faces, it took like ten seconds. Slowpokes…
But seriously, I think what Peter is saying here is that women should not misplace their value in beauty. Peter is saying that wives should definitely have value in beauty, but it should be used for the benefit of the gospel. That it should be used in bringing your husband into the kingdom of God. Now that is objectively beautiful. The world does not decide what is beautiful…
I find that gentleness is a common theme with Peter. He mentions it several times in regards to character and how one should respond. He is on this kick with gentleness. He is saying that your beauty should come from inside you rather than outside you. He is saying that in your heart is where imperishable beauty is found. This is where gentleness comes from. This is where a quiet spirit comes from. The heart being full of these things, in Peter’s mind, is what equals beauty. He is saying that there is nothing more beautiful than the true heart of a true wife. Seriously, the heart of a wife is powerful enough to drop her husband to his knees to fervently thank Jesus for her. It happens to me all the time. I think this is what Peter is trying to communicate.
He then discusses fear. Whaaat? Peter is saying that wives back in the day did not fear anything when in their right minds. As with anyone, when they were in their right frame of mind, they placed their hope in God and feared nothing (v. 5). I think that Peter is keenly aware of some things here. I think he knew that if wives placed their hope in their husbands, it would ultimately end in despair. He is saying that wives need to get their priorities right. When they mistake real beauty for being outward rather than inward, they will be putting their hope in something that is incorrect. In a world of relationships that are disastrous, Peter is saying that your hope belongs in God alone. If it is in your husbands, then it is in the wrong place. (v. 6). You do not fear anything that is frightening because your real hope is in God.
Then after he explains how wives are to live, some husbands were probably like “What about us? …What are we just chopped liver?” Ok maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but in any event, I hope you are making the connections of how this applies to us today. Peter says that husbands should live with their wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the weaker vessel… Whoa! Didn’t Peter ever hear about feminism? What is wrong with him?! You see how I keep putting all the weight on Peter? I don’t want any part of this madness. “I’m sorry Pete, but you’re on your own.” Look at what he says here...
He is saying that husbands should show honor to our wives. What he is saying is that our wives are a thing of beauty. We should treat them as such. He is saying that they are the weaker vessel, but what does this mean? I have been making bowls lately out of wood… some of them are super cool looking, mostly by accident, and this one that I made I was blown away myself. I dropped this bowl after I finished it on the cement and my heart sank. I thought that I broke it after putting several hours into making it something useful and yet, beautiful. Now, if I were making paper plates and I dropped one, how would I feel then? Would my heart sink? How many of you have used aluminum pie pans as Frisbees? Would you ever do this with a wooden bowl that you just made? No. You show the wooden bowl honor as a weaker vessel. You would not play football with a lamp. You would show it honor, just as you should your wife. You would put it in a place of honor in your home. You would keep it clean and unhindered. You would protect it from danger. You, O man, would do all of these things because you have a role to carry out. The Bible says that they are heirs with us of the grace of life. We are no better than them. Peter says, show them honor so that your prayers may not be hindered. Catch that. Something that hinders your prayers is how you treat your wife.
Colossians 3:18-19. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
This verse calls women to submit to their husbands as well. Why is it fitting in the Lord to do so? Because the idea here is much like what Peter was discussing above: conduct. I think a more fitting term here would be order. It is orderly for a voluntary submission of a wife to her husband because this gives order in the family unit, much like it does in the church. This submission does not place a woman in an inferior role to a man, but merely makes the operation a well-oiled machine.
1 Corinthians 11:3-16. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”
Paul uses five arguments in the above passage and all of them point to submission, which ultimately give order to the operation of the church. The body of Christ is absolutely meant to be a place of order as opposed to disorder. Imagine someone peeking into the windows of the church building and seeing chaos. What would they think if there were chaos among “the body of Christ?” Who would want a part of that? The church is where people come to find hope and rest and come to know more about eternal life. Paul frequently addresses order and behavior in his letters. Again, this submission does not mean inferior. It means a voluntary submission.
Ephesians 5:22-33. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Again, this passage reveals to Paul's readers the proper behavior of men and women in the body of Christ through the separation of roles. He establishes for the Ephesians (and for us) the way that men and women are to treat each other in the family units and ultimate in the body of Christ. Also noteworthy is that men are not without authority themselves. Men are under the authority of Christ. Women are under the authority of men.
Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
I frequently hear this verse being used against the idea that women cannot be leaders in the church. The problem with this is a frequent one: it is taken out of context. But how? The question must be asked, what is this verse referring to? What is it talking about? We are all one in Jesus? Let’s look at two verses prior to this in order for us to have some contextual background… “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is clearly discussing salvation. In other words, it doesn’t matter who or what we are, as long as we are human beings, we can be saved. This verse/passage does not mention leadership in the church in any form. It does not address the way a church is supposed to behave, but discusses something entirely different.
1 Timothy 2:8-15. “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”
Saved from what? This word does not mean in context that she will be saved from her sins by giving birth to children. It means that she will be “preserved (from insignificance) by means of her role in the family.” In other words, childbearing is a huge deal, a huge role to assume, and all men and women come through only women. This is a great honor! It is a deeply special thing that women are the childbearers, and it is also special that men are the authority figure. Paul is using the order in the family unit to explain the order in the church. A man will never be able to assume the childbearing role. Likewise, a woman is not to be in an authoritative leadership role over men.
Imagine if men were somehow also able to have babies. I think this is the idea that Paul is talking about here. What kind of chaos would there be if men were able to also have babies? Think of the competition between men and women! It would be as divisive as if someone thought that women could be pastoral leaders in the church… Oh wait, that is already a source for division… This is not how things are supposed to be. Just like it would be a disaster if men were having babies, it would also be a disaster for women to be leaders in the church.
I do not mean that it would be a complete loss of order if men were able to have babies, eventually we would pretend to have some type of order for the craziness, and we would function haphazardly as a society. But compared to how it is supposed to be, it would be a disaster. Much like having female pastors. Men would not make themselves look like donkeys. Why? Because there would be no reason if the Church were what it was meant to be. There would not be division in local church bodies over such things, because this issue would not exist. Just like Men cannot have babies, there is no issue of competition.
When God cursed women in Genesis, He said “Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you” This meant that her desire will be for the man’s position. There is an issue of competition because of this desire. Now whether that desire was part of the curse or that position was part of the curse is in question. Perhaps this is a false dilemma, but if so, then the position would not exist, and there would be no order in the Garden. This would have lead to chaos if mankind had any type of autonomy. The Garden of Eden was absolutely a place of order as we can see from reading the account of it. Disorder came when the serpent (Satan) whispered into Eve’s ear. Satan was clearly acting out of order in his deception. This is why it makes more sense that desire for the position was the focus of the curse. If there were no desire, then the positions (or role) would not matter. If the desire were absent, then the order would be complete. At this point, the reader should continue having childbearing in mind. Most (in an extreme sense) men do not wish that they could also bear offspring. This was not part of the curse. There was even order to the curse found in Genesis chapter three. In any event, the Bible is clear that men do not have babies, and women are not to be in pastoral leadership in the household of God.
I frequently hear that “If men are not stepping up, then women need to take their place in pastoral roles.” For starters, where does it say that in the Bible? Secondly, this responsibility is not on women, but on men. If men are not stepping up, this burden is on them. On top of all of this, God does not need anyone to make His gospel spread. What kind of God would He be if He needed anything? Therefore, God does not need men or women for anything, including being leaders in the church, but has established the proper order for His church.
An argument for women as overseers is that women are prophets as well as men, but the problem is that this is speaking of prophecy, not leadership. Again, this is an issue of eisegesis; inserting ideas into the text. For instance, Anna was a prophetess. Does this mean that she lead a church? Definitely not. If the church is "the pillar and the foundation of the truth," then we need to make sure that the stress fractures that we get in the foundation are addressed.
“But didn’t Lydia have a home church?” Read Acts 16. Lydia did not have a home church, but she had the apostles of Christ stay with her. She clearly had a powerful gift of hospitality.
Does the New Testament abrogate the Old Testament? Some people look at the Old Testament and see that Deborah is recorded in the Bible as a great leader, and they try to use this as an argument for women pastoral leaders in the New Testament church. But the question is, was she a leader in the New Testament church? Did the church exist at this time? The answer is clearly, no. Deborah was not a church leader because the church did not even exist yet. The body of Christ was not yet established.
The problem, as mentioned several times before in this article, is that this assumption also makes a common violation, which is that it is taken out of context. We can literally make the Bible say anything when we do this. For instance, believe it or not, the Bible, of all things, says “There is no God.” If you see the context that this verse is in, it will immediately make sense. Some things are not so easily understood, or do not seem to stand out so drastically, but this is an example of a common mistake in biblical discussion.
Does this mean that women have different spiritual gifts? No! The issue here is roles. If there is any question, we can ask, “Can women teach?” the answer is Yes! When Paul, the old man, writes to the young preacher, Titus, he says in Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Teaching, by its nature, assumes an authority over the students. This is why Paul says in the 1 Timothy 2 passage above, that "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over man..." A woman can and should definitely teach biblical doctrines both to children and younger women.
Men and women have different roles. Men cannot bear children. Women should not be authoritative leaders in the Body of Christ. I’ll briefly mention the transgender issue here because this also seems to be at the heart of the issue for female pastoral leadership. The reason that transgenderism is such a colossal disaster is because it is so far from the truth. For instance, is it true that a man can become a woman or vice versa? Absolutely not. When people get away from the truth, disaster is sure to follow. Remember, disaster comes in many levels. Some things are more disastrous than others. This is one of them. See what it is doing not only to society, but to the individuals themselves. They are cutting off perfectly healthy body parts and mangling them by having another human recreate them. It will never be what it is supposed to be, and people often make the claim that there is no difference between genders, but the very fact of the transition reveals that there is a difference. By transitioning, one is saying that one gender is better than the other. Likewise, it is not true, according to the Bible, that a woman should be an authoritative pastor, no matter how much she is forced into the position.
Did Jesus make a mistake in describing His church? Does He not know that this is the 21st century? Seriously, the church is not what people make it, it is what Jesus makes it. It cannot be changed. Jesus doesn’t make a mistake. The Bible is the manual for how the church should look. It is where we go for troubleshooting.
We might think that this is a cultural issue, but then what else would be a cultural issue? Where would we draw the line on what is cultural? Homosexuality? Abortion? The world already draws the line on transgenderism and abortion and homosexuality. In fact, there is no line. The point is, having female pastors is not a slippery slope, but making the teachings of the Bible out to be something cultural is dangerous. Paul says that people will remove this line in the sand in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. He says, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” We are at this time. People have removed the line between what is cultural and what is not. In so doing, they have distanced themselves from what is true.
Do we want to be found as the bride of Christ when He returns for His bride as disorderly? As the reader can clearly see, one of the main themes in the New Testament is how the church (the body of Christ) is supposed to behave. The reason for this is because the church is to have order, and order speaks volumes to the world (of disorder). I encourage you to go back and look at all of these passages listed and have the word, order, in your mind as you read them.
Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus
 Galatians 3:26-27.
 Emphasis mine.
 Litfin, A. Duane. “1 Timothy.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Vol. 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985. 736. Print.
 Genesis 3:16.
 Ephesians 2:19.
 Luke 2:36-38.
 Romans 12:13.
 Judges 4.
 Psalm 14:1.